The Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) encompasses 60,000 acres of open spaces that stretch between Interstate 75 and Lake Trafford in Immokalee and then south along the Camp Keais Strand, spanning both Collier and Lee Counties. This area contains 16,000 acres of preserved land, including the Corkscrew marsh.
CREW has been identified by the Florida Forever program as a priority acquisition project because of its extraordinary natural resource value. CREW shelters some of the most imperiled species in the United States, including endangered Florida panthers, woodstorks and several species of rare orchids. Protecting CREW is also crucial to preserving southwest Florida’s water supply. Protection of these lands will preserve connections between three conservation areas critical to the restoration of the Everglades, thus providing a corridor for both wildlife and water flows.
Conservancy policy staff serve on the Board of Trustees for the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Trust and provide advocacy and policy support towards completing the acquisition as well as ensuring proper management of the exceptional environmental lands within the CREW. (Descriptions excerpted from the Florida Forever Five Year Plan Annual Report 2007, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.)
The Agripartners parcel, located in the CREW area, is a highly-sensitive parcel of land. It is almost 4,000 acres in size, is located within the CREW Florida Forever boundary, is contiguous with already protected lands and provides critical habitat to the Florida panther.
Owner of the parcel received approval from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to build a 5-foot deep, 4-mile long canal, intended to drain the wetlands. The “ditch” would impact southwest Florida’s drinking water supplies in an important area designated in South Lee County for water replenishment.
Support from engaged citizens, such as those in The Brooks and Estero communities, increased public awareness and political will needed to bring closer scrutiny to this detrimental project. The Conservancy took action to challenge this permit and as a result, the owner withdrew his approved application the day before the Conservancy was scheduled to question the initial expert in the permit challenge.
While this is an important win for our water supplies, it would be wishful thinking to believe the challenge is over. The Conservancy will continue to stay engaged in future proposals for the protection of wetlands and sloughs so existing residents are protected from floods